I have competed in fine arts for six years, each year I grew in my gifts and did better than the previous year. This year was the first time that I did not compete, but I learned so much from sitting behind the judges. Of course, when I was competing I would go see other people in my youth group perform their categories, but I was never able to completely enjoy their presentations because I was too busy thinking about my next category or how well (or terrible) I did in my last presentation. Not competing this year gave me the ability to fully enjoy and fully take in each presentation. I witnessed students who have something to say. A generation who wants to stand up and speak out. A generation who is in no way perfect, but they want to be used by God. This generation has an anointing. I know I've heard pastors tell many groups of students that they will be the ones to start a revival.
If we want to see revival let's cultivate it in the next generation.
Instead of waiting around for the next Billy Graham to appear on the scene, let's plant the seeds of revival in students.
They already have the passion. They already have the voices and the influence.
All they need is us to come along and encourage them. People to hold them accountable for their actions. We should not let them settle for less. Let's be there for them when they fall and rejoice with them in triumph.
The students that competed at Fine Arts this weekend will end up doing one of two things; they will either continue to develop their God given talents and use them to advance His kingdom or they will give up just because they did not advance to Nationals or win an award. Encourage your students to keep developing those gifts, even if they are never deemed "superior" they are glorifying God and touching lives. The greatest disservice we could do for students is to let them give up.
Start planting the seeds of revival in the next generation and watch them blossom.
A guest entry from my friend, Zachary Robertson.
When I was ten years old, I felt God call me to be a missionary in Africa. Despite my initial stubbornness and rejection of the idea, Jesus began to place passions and dreams in my heart for people overseas until my calling finally began to excite me. It wasn’t until the summer before my freshman year of college, though, that the reality of what sacrifices I would have to make began to settle in. After graduation as my family and I made final preparations for me to move six hours away for college, it suddenly hit me that I would be leaving everything I knew to go to a new place in east Tennessee. I was terrified! Leaving home was one of the hardest experiences I have ever dealt with as I said goodbye to my family and friends. I began to constantly think about Africa. If I struggled so much to just move to the other side of the state for school, how could I ever go overseas for years at a time? It wasn’t that I didn’t love the idea of being a missionary...I really did. I was just terrified and began to think that perhaps God had made a mistake in calling me. Zachary, someone totally attached to his friends and family, had to be the worst person for the job. However, I did not by any means reject the calling. I remember the day after my parents dropped me off at college, I was crying out to God in my dorm room and wrote this in my Bible: “This is the start, I’m holding on, just take me where you want to go.”
Maybe you relate with the idea of being called into something you do not feel ready for. One of my favorite things about the Lord is that He does not give His children dreams that He does not prepare them for. Perhaps He is calling you to write a book, share your testimony, or speak up with someone at the lunch table or at work about your faith and you feel unworthy or unqualified. Maybe He is calling you into either ministry or an occupation that takes you away from home and your heart is simply not there yet. The key word, though, is yet. Saying yes to God is all that He really wants from us. Jesus does not call us because of who we are right now, but He calls us because of who He sees us as being in the future. Never does He put something on our hearts and just abandon us to the wolves. He is prepared to bare with us in our struggles, comfort and silence every fear, and help shape our hearts to where they need to be in order to live out what He has called us to do. There were many days I struggled: I got homesick and continued to doubt, but I did not stop praying.
The Lord’s presence was my place of refuge, and it was there that He began to soothe my fears and reawaken my passions for those overseas. Perhaps you can relate. Often times as we stand before Him, we begin to grasp the weight of our sin and the consequences we deserve for all we have ever done, yet we stand forgiven and redeemed at the foot of the cross and catch glimpses of the Father’s heart as anything that holds significance in our lives comes crashing down in comparison. We suddenly realize that the compassionate heart of God also aches and cries for the lost in this world. Before we know it, like Isaiah, we are crying out “Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). I am so thankful that the Lord bears with me and tends the soil of my heart when any fear and questioning goes through my mind.
So what is the biggest lesson I learned in His presence? Give Jesus all of your love. By giving the Lord all of your affection, you give Him the ultimate control to mold your heart and send your love wherever He desires—whether it be overseas, hours away, or just right next door. No matter where that place is, that’s where you will be. Like a speck of dust being carried by the wind, let your heart’s passions and burdens be free to go wherever the Lord sends them. Let yourself be tied to no person or emotion but eternally connected to the cross of Christ, because He is sufficient in any weakness and better than any relationship you could ever have. The cross may seem heavy at times, but as you fix your eyes on Jesus and remember that we have an eternity with the Lord and those we love to look forward to, the cross becomes so much lighter as we step out into obedience and dance in the deep. Where He goes, you go. Where He stays, you stay as well. Whether near or far, distance is insignificant; isolation or ridicule doesn’t matter when you are rooted in Christ because He has all of your love and, therefore, ultimate control.
As the Lord leads me step by step, there came a point when I realize that every fear I had was gone and my heart was finally in tune to hear the cries of the broken and lost souls that Jesus is calling me to. You see, by saying yes, you give God the key to unlock your heart, set up shop, and begin the process of growth and maturation. He will plant, water, and tend to these dreams until they are ready for harvest. So if you have a dream planted inside your heart but you are not ready, do not fret or think that you have failed the Lord. Nothing we do could make us worthy anyway, so trust in the fact that He cares and hears every concern you have. When you simply say yes and passionately seek to share a portion of the Lord’s heart on this matter, over time He will adequately supply the needs of your soul until one day you look up from the business of life with every triumphant fear gone and only excitement and passion for the dreams He has put inside of you remaining. Realizing that Jesus is enough and worth it are the keys to unlocking the path to your destiny.
This year has been one of the greatest years of my life. This year I published my first blog, graduated high school, and started college. Though all of these great things have happened, it hasn’t been easy. If you were to look back at my blog from September (titled “A Genuine Response”) you would see that over the last few months I’ve had some tough times. The only way I could describe to you what this year has been for me is through the word journey. Every journey has a destination and this year has been a journey leading me deeper into God’s will. God’s will is something that people spend their entire lives trying to figure out. Juniors and seniors wonder if the college they want to go to is part of God’s will for their life or if the occupation they are wanting to major in is the right one. I know these are all questions that plagued my friends and I in high school.
I have made an amazing and freeing realization this year that God’s will is not something you one day step into. It’s not when you finally get to that college or even when you get the job you feel called to. God’s will is something to be walked in every single day. To do this you must journey with the Lord.
In Exodus 33:15, Moses refuses to journey to the promised land without the Lord. “Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” Why would Moses say this to God? Moses knew that the destination of the journey he was about to embark on was to the promise land, but he also knew the promise land was pointless without the Lord going with him.
What does it look like to journey with the Lord? What does it look like to walk in God’s will daily? It is living a life of surrender. It’s letting Him be your foundation. It’s letting Him be your top priority. It’s letting Him be in control.
In 2018, may He be the one who you build your life on. May He be the one you give your devotion. May He be the one who you journey with.
If you know anything about me, you would know that I love clothes. I love looking good and if I don't think I look good then I don't feel good. A few years ago, I was obsessed with my image. I would get extremely anxious about the clothes I was wearing to church or even just hanging out with friends. I knew I did a good job if multiple people complimented my clothing. I know this might sound really crazy to some of you, but I had let my image become my idol. I was searching for affirmation through people telling me that I looked good. I did not see the problem going on in my soul. I did not realize that I had kicked God off the throne of my heart and put the opinions of others there.
Exodus 32:1-8 shares the story of a people bowing down to an idol.
"When the people realized that Moses was taking forever in coming down off the mountain, they rallied around Aaron and said, “Do something. Make gods for us who will lead us. That Moses, the man who got us out of Egypt—who knows what’s happened to him?” So Aaron told them, “Take off the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters and bring them to me.” They all did it; they removed the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from their hands and cast it in the form of a calf, shaping it with an engraving tool.
The people responded with enthusiasm: “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up from Egypt!” Aaron, taking in the situation, built an altar before the calf.
Aaron then announced, “Tomorrow is a feast day to the LORD!” Early the next morning, the people got up and offered Whole-Burnt-Offerings and brought Peace-Offerings. The people sat down to eat and drink and then began to party. It turned into a wild party!
God spoke to Moses, “Go! Get down there! Your people whom you brought up from the land of Egypt have fallen to pieces. In no time at all they’ve turned away from the way I commanded them: They made a molten calf and worshiped it. They’ve sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are the gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt!’”
The part that sticks out most to me in this story is when Aaron says that they will have a feast to the LORD. I recently found out that when it has "LORD" in all caps it also means "Yahweh," which is the name of God.
The people of Israel are calling out to God, yet they are worshiping an idol. If the Israelites can make this mistake then we can too. People may say, "Jesus is Lord," but they do not follow Jesus.
If you were around me during my season of idolatry you would have heard me making all the right declarations, but in reality I wasn't truly following Jesus. The crazy thing about this is that I didn't notice I was throwing a feast for the wrong person, neither did the Israelites.
How do we notice and take down the idols in our lives? How do we stop throwing a feast for the wrong thing or person?
To discover the hidden idols in our lives we must look at what consumes our thoughts. My pastor always says, "Whatever you think about longest will become strongest in your life." What can you not stop thinking about? What are you spending the majority of your money on?
The next step is to consider where your idol will take you.
If your idol is approval then you will constantly be jealous of others. You will always have a sense of inadequacy.
Romans 6:16 says, "Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Your idol will only lead to death.
Finally, put God back on his throne.
What can you do to put God back in his rightful place?
Be obedient to His Word. Set aside time each day to pray and dig into God's Word. Not only learn scripture, but know it and believe it. Pray for God to change your heart towards those that you have a hard time loving. Honor God in all you say and do. Let God lead and guide you in all you do. Rejoice in the Lord always.
You will only find true fulfillment when you are letting God guide your path and your thoughts.
So, I challenge you to ask yourself, who are you throwing a feast for? What are you bowing down to?
I've been at college for a month now and if I'm being honest its been a rough transition. Don't get me wrong I love college. I’ve made some great friendships. I have learned so much already, but that doesn't mean its been easy. I started college knowing basically no one on campus and being thrown into a completely new environment. At first, I had a really hard time making friends. I ate alone and stayed in my room for hours by myself. I miss home and a sense of normal more than you can imagine. This first month has been filled with tears. I have questioned if I really made the right decision on choosing to move away from a comfortable situation to an uncomfortable one.
Through all of this, when people ask me how I'm doing I give them the typical, but also false answer of "I'm doing well." If I was to be honest my answer would be filled with pain and confusion.
So, why am I telling you all of this?
I'm telling you this because even in the midst of all this the Lord has come to be my peace and comfort. He is my home even when I am hours away from my literal home.
You may be like me and be in a new environment feeling alone. Or you may be wondering if you have made the right choices over the past few months or years. I want to leave you with a few verses that have really helped me through this season of life.
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."
"Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18
In a few short days I'll be starting a new chapter of my life. I'm so excited to go to college, but I'm also nervous. I have to make all new friends and start a brand new church. All these things seem overwhelming and the thought of them at times has made me want to just stay home where I have plenty of friends and feel comfortable.
Though the thought of something new can be terrifying I know God is calling me to move on. He's asking me to move out of the known to the unknown, the comfortable to the uncomfortable.
A verse that has brought me great peace in this decision is Isaiah 43:2, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."
No matter what I face in life, the good and the bad, God is always with me and He is always with you. You may be like me and starting a completely new journey, but know the Lord is with you. He is with you in the days when you feel all alone and miss home. He is with you when you're out having fun with friends. Don't give up on God's dream for your life just because you are scared. He's got you and won't let you go.
I've been in church for all 18 years of my life and one thing I've noticed that kills a Christian's passion for God is comparison. With Social Media it's even easier to see how great other peoples' lives are compared to your seemingly boring life. When my youth group goes to conventions a majority of the conversations leading up to the event are about how hipster our outfits are going to be. When we get there it then turns in to a conversation about who is dressed more hipster. Over the past few years I've really struggled with comparing myself to other believers and seeing if I was a "better Christian" than they were. A lot of the times I felt I didn't measure up to certain Christians and became judgemental of believers who I thought weren't living right. The idol of comparison began to snuff out my flame for God. My Christian walk was no longer about pleasing God, but became about being noticed by leaders, friends, and family.
King Saul is the perfect example of how comparison kills our love for God. In 1 Samuel 18, the Israelites are coming back from battle. In the battle Saul killed thousands of Philistines, but David killed hundreds of thousands of Philistines. The people began to praise David for his accomplishments. Verse 9 states, "So Saul eyed David from that day forward." Saul became scared that he would be outdone and overtaken, he didn't want to share the glory with David. His comparison of himself to David stirred up envy in his heart. It caused demons to come and torment him and his kingdom was eventually given to David.
Has your comparison snuffed out your fire for God? Has your comparison turned to envy? You can be sure you are suffering from envy when...
1. You secretly get upset that your friends have succeeded where you have not
2. You use excuses to explain why someone did better than you
3. You can't stand to hear your friends complimented in your presence
4. You are better at criticism than you are at praise
Instead of killing our flame for God in our lives, let's kill comparison.
What I've noticed about comparison in my life is that it makes me forget my identity. I begin to feel inferior and not good enough, but that's not what Christ says about me. He says I am his workmanship created for good works (Ephesians 2:10). I was not created to feel less than, nor should I try to make others feel that way. Comparison also keeps me from the joy of the Lord. You can kill comparison in your life by, building others up and staying rooted in who Christ says you are. Encourage others. If there is something you admire about them, tell them. When you find yourself being caught by comparison remember who you are in Christ. You are loved. You are worthy. You are chosen.
"Jesus sat in the midst of joy sipping the coming sorrow, so we can sit in the midst of sorrow and sip the coming joy. " -Timothy Keller
Today is Good Friday, but two thousand years ago it was not considered a good day. It was the day our Savior was beaten and broken. It was the day he died on a cross. For Jesus' followers, friends, and family this day was anything but good. With him dead all hope seemed lost. But what they didn't know was what was going to happen on Sunday. On Sunday, Jesus rose from the grave! Friday didn't become good until Sunday. Friday was now good because it was the day we could pray to God without a priest. Friday was the day that our debt was paid. In the midst of what seemed like the worst day in history God was doing something incredible.
Some of you reading this might be going through a really difficult time. A time where nothing makes sense and the whole world seems against you. You may be in a season where there seems to be more pain than joy. I want to let you know that today may be your Friday, but Sunday is coming. At this moment the pain you're experiencing doesn't make any sense but one day it will. This season you're in could be a chance for you to learn to depend on God. A season where you learn to find joy even in the midst of suffering.
Last year, I was in a place where I needed direction and it seemed that God wasn't listening to me. It became very frustrating, but during this time I learned to press into God. To praise Him even though I wasn't getting the answers I was looking for. It seeemed like I had a lot of Fridays, but eventually God gave me the answers I was looking for just when I needed to hear them. I can now look back on that season and see that God was doing something in my life that didn't make any sense at the time, but now does. That season had a purpose.
Your awful situation has a purpose. God is doing something big in your life even though it doesn't seem like it in the present.
It's Friday, but Sunday is coming!
If you've beeen in the church long enough, you've most likely heard the story of Samson. If you haven't, or forgot some of the story, let me recap. In Judges 13, we find out Samson's birth was a miracle because of his mother's inability to have children. God ordered Samson to be put under the sanctification of the Nazarite vow. The vow required him to keep his hair long and stay away from wine. Skip ahead a few chapters and enters the infamous Delilah. We don't know much about Delilah, but we do know she had Samson in a trance. After a few failed attempts at finding the secret to Samson's strength and a few bruised Philistines, Samson finally reveals the secret- cut off his hair. Fast forward a few more verses and we see a blinded and weak Samson.
There is a verse in chapter 16 of Judges that you've probably skipped over, but this verse is so powerful.
"But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved." Judges 16:22
This verse brings me so much hope. Even in my shortcomings God hasn't given up on me.
I am so glad that Samson's heart didn't completely harden. It is so easy to become callous after the bottom falls out. Samson's power, hair, and eyes are gone. To me these conditions would be reason enough to give up on God. I'm sure Samson had these thoughts running through his head and was struggling with shame for what he had done. Even in the worst situation of his life God was still working.
"But the hair of his head began to grow back..."
No matter how far you've gone, or how bad you've messed up, there is a God who is ready to pick you up. I serve a "but God." Samson believed again that God was his only true source of strength. It's believed that Samson killed more Philistines in the last moment of his life than he did at any other moment. There is no way that could've happened BUT GOD!
You might say you can't do what God has called you to do BUT GOD! Money may be tight BUT GOD! You may feel lost and alone BUT GOD!
If you feel like life is too hard and there is no hope rest in the fact that at any moment God is going to butt in.
I was recently told the story of a 12-year-old girl, Katelyn, who live-streamed her suicide. I heard this story two weeks ago and can not get it out of my mind. It breaks my heart. This story moved me to look up statistics about suicide and I was shocked. Everyday in the US 121 people commit suicide and recently that number is on the rise (The New York Times). The question that has been rattling through my brain is, "What can I do?" I can't change what happened to Katelyn, but I can help someone going through a similar situation. I've been praying, asking God how I can help and the following is what He placed on my heart.
Get your eyes off of yourself.
"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:4
We live in a world that is consumed with self. God is calling us to look beyond our selves and see the hurting around us. When God shows you these people don't be afraid to ask them the tough questions. Ask them how they're really doing. Ask them what's going on at home. Ask them if you can pray for them. These seemingly awkward questions could radically change someone's life.
Stop wasting time.
Victor Hugo once said, "Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time."
Most of the time we spend could be doing something for God, but instead we spend it making excuses. We tell God we can't go talk to that person because we're too busy. Stop making excuses and start doing something. When you get to heaven and God asks you why you didn't tell someone about Jesus no excuse will work.
Today ask God to help you get your eyes off of yourself and onto others. Ask Him to give you the words to speak life into someone else. Tell everyone you can about God's great love. Don't let what happened to Katelyn happen again. Today you can change someone's life and it starts by stepping out of your comfort zone.